Kicking the habit

Why Instagram wiped every recurring meeting from its product team’s schedule

May 21, 2014
May 21, 2014

Meetings, and recurring meetings in particular, are the bane of the corporate world. They take up a surprisingly massive amount of a company’s time and energy.

Peter Deng, Facebook’s former director of product management and Instagram’s head of product, offered a simple solution in a talk written up at First Round Review: Get rid of every recurring meeting, and start fresh. It was one of the first things he did after joining Instagram.

“Momentum is a really powerful force, and at first it’s fed by all of these meetings,” Deng said. “But then you have all of these routines and habits that form, and before you know it, you’re just going through the motions, assuming what must come next.”

Deng offers a reminder to constantly think about whether employees’ time could be used better. He’s not suggesting a permanent elimination of meetings, but a reset. Some particularly essential meetings might come back.

In his experience at Instagram, the space that got freed up created time and space, Deng said, which fueled the company’s growth. After the reset, a profusion of meetings at Instagram that were essentially status updates got boiled down into just one 30-minute meeting at the beginning of the week where every team runs down the top three things they’re working on. This also served to boost accountability, since the meeting was an opportunity to check whether the three things mentioned the previous week had been done.

Instead of treating meetings like an obligation, Deng suggests, treat them as active solutions to specific problems.

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